There’s a nice symmetry when your Most Anticipated film of the year ends up being your absolute favorite. Christopher Nolan’s dizzying, ambitious epic is the reason I go to the movies. It’s huge, original, thrilling and has already embedded itself in pop culture. I see countless movies a year, each time hoping to have my mind blown, each time leaving slightly disappointed. If I’m lucky, I hit that one movie a year that does just that. In 2010, nothing else even came close.
2. Black Swan
Combining the ambitious theatricality of The Fountain with the intimate scale of The Wrestler, this film is absolutely the best-of-both-worlds. Natalie Portman gives the performance of her career and Darren Aronofsky reasserts himself as one of my favorite filmmakers. The last act is a stunning tour-de-force. If you didn’t love it, you’re probably too old.
3. Toy Story 3
Pixar is becoming adept at making sure each film they release has one moment that will make you an emotional wreck. This film has two: the sweet ending and the shockingly heartbreaking scene at the dump. I’m still amazed at how the film actually makes you believe every character might be about to die, even though you know better. And to think, at the beginning of the year I was actually worried if they could pull this off?
4. The Social Network
While it’s not the “film that defines a generation” (or even as brilliant as the trailer), it is a fast moving, funny and extremely entertaining film about how Facebook was founded. The cast is great, score is propulsive and dark and it’s shot like Se7en. What’s not to love?
5. 127 Hours
Despite the evidence above I’m usually not a fan of true stories but Danny Boyle’s intense, viceral film is indeed one of the best of the year. Ten minutes in, you’re completely tensed up and remain that way through the end. Boyle is great at making feel-bad, feel-good films. You go through hell first but come out feeling like life is beautiful.
I get it if you hate this movie, but I also think you’re wrong. Noah Baumbach’s abrasive characters walk a very fine line, (loved them in The Squid & The Whale, hated them in Margot At The Wedding.) This film thankfully strikes the right balance and get’s easier to watch (and funnier) through repeat viewings.
7. Exit Through The Gift Shop
A brilliant documentary. Ostensibly about the rise of street art culture it’s a film about art that forces you to question “what is good art?” without ever directly asking you that question. I’ve still got no idea how much is real but it doesn’t really matter.
8. Please Give
This film deserves the kind of recognition being showered on the enjoyable (but overpraised) The Kids Are All Right. The film is funny, surprising and doesn’t wrap everything up into a little bow at the end. A lesser filmmaker would sacrifice reality for convention, amping up situations for bigger laughs and forced dramatic confrontations but writer/director Nicole Holofcener remarkably resists these temptations and the film is better for it.
9. Red Riding Trilogy
Conceived as a mini-series for British television the Red Riding films are really unlike anything on American TV (or in theatres for that matter). I had the unique opportunity of being able to watch the entire trilogy back-to-back at the IFC Center back in February and it remains one of my favorite experiences at the theatre this year. A dark, absorbing mystery that plays like a cross between Zodiac and The Wire, (but British). You can’t help but get sucked in.
10. The Loved Ones
The most obscure title on my list. The film has no US distributor but I was lucky enough to see it during FilmLinc’s Scary Movies series in October and have been thinking about it ever since. The film is a true original with several twists that elevate the movie beyond standard psycho fare and subplots that resolve themselves in surprising ways. It’s definitely for the adventurous but when you figure out what the title is referring to, you can’t help but smile.